First Flight of 2018 – Trip Report – Durham Tees Valley to Humberside

The weather so far in 2018 has been awful for flying. If it’s not snow and cloud it’s strong and gusty winds, or ground fog. I’ve barely done any flying, and we’re in February now.

But one trip I did manage, having vowed to visit more airfields this year, was to Humberside Airport in late January.

With the grass airfields all a bit boggy, I took the opportunity to tick this larger airport off the list. It’s quite close to home, and a common destination for students taking their cross country trips from our flying club.

So, with the aircraft free and the weather clear, if a little cold and breezy, we set off from Durham Tees Valley (EGNV) at around 11.30am for the short flight south.

Being a weekday, the military airfields in the Vale of York were active. No sooner had we cleared the Durham zone did the radar controller hand us over to Leeming. Our route kept us clear of the large combine MATZ area and its protruding stubs, but we were close enough to need to talk to them and I was grateful for the service if anything fast and military was flying around.


Settling into the cruise at 3,000ft, we were soon over the North York Moors. Following recent periods of snow, this high ground was still mostly white and quite scenic in the sunshine. We followed the valley south to the historic town of Helmsley, noting the former wartime aerodrome of Wombleton nearby, which is still used by microlight aircraft.


Wombleton airfield

Once past the hills the landscape turned green again and the low winter sun was quite dazzling. We were switched over to Linton on Ouse radar service, who seemed quite busy with military training traffic as well as other GA pilots making use of the break in the weather.

We spotted something slow-moving ahead, and it took a while to register it was a hot air balloon hovering somewhere south of York. We gave it a wide berth.


After a while a shimmering line appeared near the horizon running east to west. This was the great Humber, which grew larger and larger as we approached. With it came a switch to Humberside Radio which, it was immediately clear, was quite busy. As well as various GA aircraft, there seemed to be some commercial traffic flying training patterns and ILS approaches, as well as departing traffic.

It took a couple of calls to get a response, but they eventually gave us instructions to head towards the Elsham Wolds reporting point. This is a former RAF base a couple of miles north of Humberside, which is being reclaimed by nature.

Despite being marked on Skydemon, I mistook where exactly it was and was given a friendly reminder by ATC just as I realised my mistake. The sun made identifying the airport difficult, and I was heading straight for the final approach path.

With the correction made we were switched to Humberside Tower and advised we’d need to hold at Elsham. However, the controller asked if we’d be able to slip in to land ahead of traffic on a 9 mile final. No problem, so I turned and aimed at a half-mile final to runway 20, now without the hindrance of sun blindness!

This was a great way to land at the airport, doing a bit of seat-of-the-pants flying onto a short final with a noticeable crosswind from the right. I was also aware that I’d have to backtrack to vacate the runway, and that this would need to be expedited due to the traffic coming in behind us. So I aimed to put the aircraft down as close to the numbers as possible.

The displaced threshold and busy road running past the end of the runway makes things a little more interesting, but I managed to get her down and slowed in a fairly short distance, turning to vacate at the Bravo taxiway. The controller thanked me for keeping it swift.

Once off the runway the instruction was to park on Stand 5 of the Southern Apron. That familiar “where on earth do I go” feeling when visiting an airfield for the first time took over, but the helpful controller gave some ‘turn left there’ advice, which was appreciated.


Here’s a sped-up video of the flight down.

Once shut down, we hoped to get some lunch. Wandering roughly in the direction of the terminal, a shout from our left indicated the exit we were to go through. The friendly guy in the control hut told us we could get food and pay our landing fee in the terminal, after walking through his gate to the landside road.

The restaurant was good, full of passengers about to take flights to oil rigs and the like. We had a good fill of food and a leisurely look around the airport, after paying our fee at the information desk. There are a lot of aircraft parked around being worked on by Eastern Airways, and a few rig helicopters were coming and going.


Return Trip

For our return flight, ATC were again helpful, letting us know of some interesting aircraft about to make a low-pass over the runway. They then gave us the option of which runway to use, as the wind was right across the main strip. Nevertheless, it was within limits so I was happy to take the shorter taxi and use the extra length of the main runway for departure. We turned north, again dazzled by the sun, and routed back over the Humber Bridge to retrace our steps back to Durham Tees Valley.




Flight time down was 50 minutes and return was an hour due to the wind direction. All in all it was a great way to dust off the winter and get flying again, making use of the larger airports when the grass strips are muddy.

Here’s a video of the taxi and take-off at Humberside.

And the route back


Matt Falcus is a private pilot and aviation writer. He has been flying since 2006, taking the opportunity whenever the British weather allows to explore the local area and other airfields. He is author of a number of aviation books.

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